A Garden Retrospective

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How did your garden grow this past year? Did everything flourish? Did you make mistakes? What do you intend to keep on doing, and what will you change for the future? Occurring as it does in the coldest part of the year, New Year’s is an excellent time to review last year’s garden and then apply the knowledge gained to this coming growing season.

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For example, I’m very pleased with how some of my veggies did, and not so happy with others. My Sea Foam Swiss Chard flourished, providing more than enough leaves for me and my friends. On the other hand, the “improved” rhubarb chard I planted  failed miserably, bolting after a mere two months in the ground. Chard is a biennial. Why this one decided to bloom the first year is beyond me, but I won’t be growing it again—at least intentionally. (Somehow these sneaky plants managed to ripen seeds while my back was turned, so I guess I will be growing it again.)

The pole beans also received mixed reviews, as noted in my post about Yellow Green Beans. The one obvious lesson I learned is that I don’t need as many plants! We ate snap beans almost every night for weeks, and still had plenty to share with friends, neighbors, acquaintances, the UPS delivery guy…. I thought that only happened with zucchini!

On the other hand, all the Dianthus I planted have done exceedingly well. I had heard that they’re short lived as perennials, but mine are showing no signs of decline after three summers. More please! Similarly, the hardy geraniums continue to flourish. I probably don’t need more, but it is tempting when a plant is clearly so content.

As is my habit, my deck planters were put to use growing herbs. It’s nice to have them handy to the kitchen, and a container keeps mint from getting out of control. However, in an effort to economize, for the most part I skipped adding any annuals. As a result, the pots were, well, boring. Next year I’ll take a tip from the planters at the botanic garden and splurge on the annuals (or grow my own from seed). It’s worth it for the delight that pots of flowers provide.

The ten Basket of Gold plants I bought on sale ($1 for a 4-inch pot) looked terrific in the spring, then all succumbed to poor drainage, summer heat, and ennui. I pulled out the dead bodies, then went looking for a replacement. Our local garden center was enthusiastic about another species in the same genus, so I bought one as a trial. It looked healthy in October—we’ll see how it survives the winter. If it’s still happy, I may spring for a few more. Otherwise, I’ll be picking up some yellow yarrow, even though it blooms a bit later in the season.

Aurinia saxatilis - Basket of Gold @XG 14may2008 LAH 007

Apples @Tacoma 29aug04 LAH 396One mistake had us depressed for several days. Our Liberty apple tree, only three years old, set 30(!) apples. Pete is particularly fond of apples, having lived in upstate New York, surrounded by McIntosh orchards. We carefully supported branches, warded off hail and hungry squirrels, and eagerly anticipated our first harvest.

We waited too long. By the time we went out to pick the fruit, it was old and mushy. Noooooooo!

You can be sure we’ll watch more closely next year.

A huge success was our third attempt at growing the street tree our HOA selected—an English oak. The first one died because the landscaper planted it far too deeply, and I didn’t catch it in time. The second one died because it was an inferior tree, but we had to have an English oak, and none of the other tree nurseries had any. For a third round, we petitioned to substitute a Red Oak, somewhat better suited to Colorado conditions. So far, it’s done well. (Our neighbors, who have also had to replace successive dead trees, took note, and more petitions are pending.)

Another probable failure is the four cranberry viburnum our garden designer chose for the backyard. Initially planted from #5 cans, not one of the shrubs has grown. In fact, I think they’re shrinking. If they don’t make progress this fourth summer, they’ll be replaced by something else similarly bird-friendly.

I could go on, but you get the idea. If you kept a garden journal, the task is easier, but even if you didn’t, now is a good time to assess the landscape. I always make more rational decisions at this time of year, especially when compared to the ideas I get in early spring, when I tend to be a bit irrational about anything with roots.

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